This is a continuation of my hiking in the Upper Peninsula back in August. Go here for Driving to the Porcupines, here for Backpacking in the Porcupines, Part 1,. and here for Backpacking in the Porcupines, Part 2
|hiking along Picture Rocks Lakeshore|
Leaving the Porcupines Mountains, I was running low on fuel. There had been a gas station right outside the park, but its pumps were covered up. I drove north along the lakeshore to the beautiful town of Ontongon, where I filled up with gas. I was pleasantly surprised to see gas prices had dropped a bit while I was hiking (I’d paid 4.17 the day before I started hiking and most places I’d seen in the Upper Peninsula (UP) had been well over the $4 mark. Gas has always been higher in the UP. At Ontongon it was $4.04. I filled the tank and drove east on highway 28, crossing through a heavily wooden area south of the Keweenaw Peninsula. At L’Ase, I headed south on US 41, toward Marquette. The sun was dropping low in the sky and I decided that I needed to find a place to pull off before I got into the Marquette area. I picked up some dinner at a dinner and then stopped at a state park campsite on Lake Michigamme. It was a little more than I wanted to pay for sleeping in the cab behind my truck, but they had showers and so I forked over the dough and found a place to camp and then, after dinner, headed to the showers. The next morning I was up early and stopped for breakfast at a place just outside of Marquette, before driving on the Musining. As I expected, the backpacking campsites at Picture Rocks were all claimed so I decided to do a day trip and then find a place where I could camp in my truck. After getting a map of the area, I brought a 12 inch sandwich at subway and headed to the Chapel Road trailhead. I knew this place was popular and the number of vehicles proved it. The parking lot was full and I had to park along the side of the road. I got out my daypack, put in my camera, a journal, food and a map, and rain gear (there were calls for late afternoon thunderstorms) and headed out.
Unlike the Porcupines, the trails in Picture Rocks are fairly level. From the parking lot, I head down the Chapel Rock trailhead, through a mixed forest of beech, maple, hemlock and pine. The forest is rather open and the trail appears to have been an old two-track dirt road that in places is lined with delicate columbines. I pass through a few groves of beech with dead or dying trees and another hiker suggest it’s the emerald ash borer that has been killing the ash in the Midwest, but I later learn that’s not it at all and thankfully I did pass many healthy groves of beech before the day was done.
|Chapel Rock Falls (how do I get this right-side up?)|
A mile or two into my hike I came upon Chapel Lake falls. I explored the falls from the south side, which is right on top of the falls and where one had to be careful lest you slip and tumble down the side of the hill. From the north side there was a nice overlook and I sat there and watched the falls while I ate ½ of my subway sandwich. After lunch, I headed down toward Lake Superior, another mile and a half away.
|Storm Clouds developing|
The trail ends at Lake Superior where it intersects with the North Country Trail which hugs the shoreline. Here is also Chapel Rock, one of the neatest rock formations I’ve seen. Carved out of sandstone and sticking out at the edge of the water, the sandstone pillar rises 60 or so feet into the sky. On top of it is a solo white pine that sticks up like a steeple. But the amazing thing is that the rock island has an anchor line back to the mainland, a thick root from the pine that still links the tree to the sandstone cliffs overlooking the lake. This root would have been there when Chapel Rock was connected to the mainland, but reports of the unique rock were first made nearly 200 years, so the tree and the formation is old. Immediately, I think about how easy it would be to scoot across the root to gain access to the top of the rock island but there are fences and signs warning would be adventurers of the penalties for such an infraction of park service rules. And it is a good thing for there are plenty of people here enjoying the fragile formation and it wouldn’t take too much mischief to cause irreversible damage.
After enjoying the rock, I hike west on the North Country Trail for what is said to be the best views along Picture Rocks. I am not disappointed. For four and a half miles, I walk on cliffs a 100 or so feet above the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior. Below, tourist boats from Munising cruise by and further out into the lake I watch several ships with iron ore sail pass. I’m passed by a number of backpackers and some day hikers, but most keep on walking where I find myself constantly stopping in awe of the beauty around me. At one of the many lookouts, I strike up a conversation with a couple that had asked me to photograph the two of them. They’re on their honeymoon and when we get to talking about where they live in California, I mention a couple who were friends of mine from Utah who’d moved there. She screams, “Angie and I are best friends.” The world sometimes can be a small place!
At Grand Portal Point, the trail turns to the southwest, providing an open view of the western sky that is darkening. I watch a storm pass over Grand Island and rush across the water to the mainland. I pull on my rain jacket and keep hiking. The shower was short lived, but there are more showers that keep popping up, none lasting very long. During a lull in the showers, shortly before reaching Mosquito Beach, I stop to eat and down the rest of my Subway sandwich. I hike on. It is raining hard when I hit Mosquito Beach, so I look around quickly and then retreat back into the woods where the vegetation makes the rain seem like a mere sprinkle. Because of the rain, I decide to take the more direct Mosquito River trail instead of the longer Mosquito Falls trail. It rains most of the three miles back to the trailhead, only stopping for good about the time I arrive back at the truck.